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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

12.05.2017
It seems that more people are now beginning to realise that, to be a real game-changer rather than just an expensive and unreliable contributor to energy needs, solar, wind and other sources of renewable, ‘free’ energy have to be used in conjunction with energy storage on a massive scale. Not only that, but this scale is far greater than anything we can currently conceive of. Even pumped storage, the best we currently have, could make only a very modest contribution in most geographies. Batteries, including the Tesla Powerwall, are touted as an enabler of a true renewables revolution, but...
05.05.2017
The coming UK national election will inevitably be dominated by Brexit, at least for most voters. But this is not the only concern and in itself will have a knock-on effect on other issues for which policy currently emanates from Brussels. Not least among these is the environment in its broadest sense, with policy on air and water pollution, farming (including pesticides), wildlife conservation etc all being made at EU level. With the UK’s relationship with other EU member states inevitably changing, the Westminster parliament may once more be able to introduce policies designed with the...
27.04.2017
With the double shock (to most) of the UK vote for Brexit and the election of President Trump across the pond, many people predicted a further series of political upsets this year. That’s the way people’s minds work – we tend to expect a continuation of a trend – and it’s one reason why predictions are so difficult to make about almost anything. In fact, the political ground across Europe has shifted comparatively little, with the notable exception of the UK, where the Labour Party leadership apparently has a death wish, believing that the country is ready to accept its hard left agenda....
21.04.2017
The extent of the human race’s impact on climate is not known with any degree of certainty, although the prevailing message in much of the media is that, to all intents and purposes, it is. Along with this message often goes the view that there is a relatively small clique of people who, for whatever nefarious motive, continue to oppose this apparent consensus. The Trump presidency takes a far more sceptical view of this consensus than its predecessor, and the scientific establishment is seriously concerned about what may happen between now and the next election. However, at least one of the...
07.04.2017
Markets are prone to bubbles as the herd instinct takes over from cool common sense. This is not a new phenomenon – witness the South Sea bubble in the early 18th Century, and the even earlier Tulip Mania in the Netherlands – but markets seem to be as prone to these as ever. The dot-com bubble of 1995-2001 saw money pouring in to internet start-ups, most of which have since disappeared. IT may have transformed our lives, but for every Amazon or Google, there are hundreds of companies that never made a profit. There are of course always commentators who will point out the dangers of such...
31.03.2017
Most people said that Donald Trump could not get the Republican nomination for President. He did. Most people thought he would never be elected President. He was. Most people expected him to tone down his rhetoric and become more like a conventional politician after he was elected. Apart maybe from his acceptance speech, he has shown little sign of doing this. President Trump will try to do many of the things candidate Trump promised. Not everything: he is no longer encouraging people to lock Hillary Clinton up, now that she no longer poses a threat to his plans, for example. His attacks on...
24.03.2017
‘Transports of delight’ will remind those UK readers of mature years of the London buses lauded in the Flanders and Swann song (others may find it meaningless, for which I apologise). In the 1950s, when the song was written, public transport was king and car ownership much lower than today. Since then, things have moved on considerably. Car ownership in developed countries is almost universal and has essentially peaked as more people in an increasingly urban population choose not to buy one. The private car is the default mode of transport for very many people, and global numbers are...
17.03.2017
Last week’s newsletter – Carbon dioxide, pollution and energy policy – quoted from a recent article posted on the Carbon Brief website: Analysis: UK carbon emissions fell 6% in 2016 after record drop in coal use. Carbon Brief (tag line ‘Clear on climate’) nails its colours to the mast quite clearly by featuring stories reinforcing the still-dominant narrative of impending dangerous, anthropogenic climate change and the need to take urgent action. Their stated purpose suggests a degree of objectivity. On the ‘about us’ page of the website, we read “Carbon Brief is a UK-based website covering...
10.03.2017
A report this week from Carbon Brief website gives a very rosy view of the UK’s emissions reduction policy. On the BBC website we see that coal collapse drives down UK carbon emissions, while in the Times, the identical message is presented under the headline ditching coal helps Britain beat climate change target. The FT emphasises that UK carbon emissions fall to late-19th century levels. There are more serious aspects to consider, but I can’t avoid noting the increasingly common use of the term ‘carbon emissions’, giving a somewhat inaccurate picture of clouds of soot rather than invisible...
24.02.2017
…as the song goes. Ideally, of course, we should try to be as objective as possible and understand the negatives as well. In reality, all too often we accentuate them instead. Despite life becoming better in so many ways, there seems to be an innate tendency to think that things are going downhill. Every civilization seems to look back to its golden days and worry about the downhill slide since then. Today, this is particularly true for environmental issues. Just as we categorise people as left- or right-leaning in their politics, or classify by class or income band, so we can place people on...

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